free hit counter code Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels - GoBooks - Download Free Book
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels

Availability: Ready to download

An astonishingly nuanced reading of Jane Austen that yields a rare understanding of how to live "About seven years ago, not too long before our daughter was born, and a year before my father died, Jane Austen became my only author." In the turbulent period around the birth of her first child and the death of her father, Rachel Cohen turned to Jane Austen to make sense of her An astonishingly nuanced reading of Jane Austen that yields a rare understanding of how to live "About seven years ago, not too long before our daughter was born, and a year before my father died, Jane Austen became my only author." In the turbulent period around the birth of her first child and the death of her father, Rachel Cohen turned to Jane Austen to make sense of her new reality. For Cohen, simultaneously grief-stricken and buoyed by the birth of her daughter, reading Austen became her refuge and her ballast. She was able to reckon with difficult questions about mourning, memorializing, living in a household, paying attention to the world, reading, writing, and imagining through Austen's novels. Austen Years is a deeply felt and sensitive examination of a writer's relationship to reading, and to her own family, winding together memoir, criticism, and biographical and historical material about Austen herself. And like the sequence of Austen's novels, the scope of Austen Years widens successively, with each chapter following one of Austen's novels. We begin with Cohen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she raises her small children and contemplates her father's last letter, a moment paired with the grief of Sense and Sensibility and the social bonds of Pride and Prejudice. Later, moving with her family to Chicago, Cohen grapples with her growing children, teaching, and her father's legacy, all refracted through the denser, more complex Mansfield Park and Emma. With unusual depth and fresh insight into Austen's life and literature, and guided by Austen's mournful and hopeful final novel, Persuasion, Rachel Cohen's Austen Years is a rare memoir of mourning and transcendence, a love letter to a literary master, and a powerful consideration of the odd process that merges our interior experiences with the world at large.


Compare
Ads Banner

An astonishingly nuanced reading of Jane Austen that yields a rare understanding of how to live "About seven years ago, not too long before our daughter was born, and a year before my father died, Jane Austen became my only author." In the turbulent period around the birth of her first child and the death of her father, Rachel Cohen turned to Jane Austen to make sense of her An astonishingly nuanced reading of Jane Austen that yields a rare understanding of how to live "About seven years ago, not too long before our daughter was born, and a year before my father died, Jane Austen became my only author." In the turbulent period around the birth of her first child and the death of her father, Rachel Cohen turned to Jane Austen to make sense of her new reality. For Cohen, simultaneously grief-stricken and buoyed by the birth of her daughter, reading Austen became her refuge and her ballast. She was able to reckon with difficult questions about mourning, memorializing, living in a household, paying attention to the world, reading, writing, and imagining through Austen's novels. Austen Years is a deeply felt and sensitive examination of a writer's relationship to reading, and to her own family, winding together memoir, criticism, and biographical and historical material about Austen herself. And like the sequence of Austen's novels, the scope of Austen Years widens successively, with each chapter following one of Austen's novels. We begin with Cohen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she raises her small children and contemplates her father's last letter, a moment paired with the grief of Sense and Sensibility and the social bonds of Pride and Prejudice. Later, moving with her family to Chicago, Cohen grapples with her growing children, teaching, and her father's legacy, all refracted through the denser, more complex Mansfield Park and Emma. With unusual depth and fresh insight into Austen's life and literature, and guided by Austen's mournful and hopeful final novel, Persuasion, Rachel Cohen's Austen Years is a rare memoir of mourning and transcendence, a love letter to a literary master, and a powerful consideration of the odd process that merges our interior experiences with the world at large.

30 review for Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    I was probably a less than ideal candidate for reading this book. I've struggled with this type of newer nonfiction, a combination of memoir and literary, in the past. Plus, I haven't read Austen since my high school days and wasn't a fan back then. Despite that I was drawn in at certain times to her personnel story, new child, father recently passed, and curious about her literary comments. Interesting to see that Ta-Nehisi Coates, has also written literary criticism of Austen. For three years I was probably a less than ideal candidate for reading this book. I've struggled with this type of newer nonfiction, a combination of memoir and literary, in the past. Plus, I haven't read Austen since my high school days and wasn't a fan back then. Despite that I was drawn in at certain times to her personnel story, new child, father recently passed, and curious about her literary comments. Interesting to see that Ta-Nehisi Coates, has also written literary criticism of Austen. For three years she diligently read Austen, trying to make sense of her own life through Austen's words. I think I would have gotten more from this had I previously reread Austen's more popular novels. Was just too long ago, maybe I would get more from her works than I did reading as a teenager. It did, however, spark my interest in rereading, at least I'll start with one and see how it goes. ARC from Netgalley.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fatma

    My problem with Austen Years is twofold. First, the writing. Cohen's writing is flighty, lacking in solidity. It wants to be poetic and expansive but accomplishes neither. In Austen Years there is always a line or two that disrupts the flow of the entire passage, and oftentimes those lines are ones that are supposed to clinch the passage's point, not obfuscate it. Here I'm talking about lines like, "A kind of rose, but without sentiment, the matter-of-fact, pale, interfused rose that the sun leav My problem with Austen Years is twofold. First, the writing. Cohen's writing is flighty, lacking in solidity. It wants to be poetic and expansive but accomplishes neither. In Austen Years there is always a line or two that disrupts the flow of the entire passage, and oftentimes those lines are ones that are supposed to clinch the passage's point, not obfuscate it. Here I'm talking about lines like, "A kind of rose, but without sentiment, the matter-of-fact, pale, interfused rose that the sun leaves int he sky when it sets at the end of a midwester winter" "You can only be interrupted by someone else, who has been active in other things elsewhere, while you have been doing the thing you have been doing. When someone else demands your attention, it is a sign of the multiplicity of life moving forward." ...what ? It felt like the book was aiming for a style like Mark Doty's in his excellent What is the Grass, but having just read Doty's book only made me more aware of how much Cohen's paled in comparison. Second, the structure. Austen Years sorely needed some kind of narrative cohesion. Each chapter was split into a bunch of subsections, most of which just didn't flow. Aside from all falling under the general theme of the chapter and the Austen novel in question, I didn't at all understand how they were related. I also think that Cohen especially fell short when it came to blending her own life with Austen's works. She tended to write either exclusively about Austen's work/life--in large, seemingly tangential swaths, too--and then to make a hard right into her own life, with nothing to bridge the two. It was jarring to go from one to the other, and it made reading both confusing and frankly not very enjoyable. I love reading about anything, and I mean anything, Jane Austen-related, but even I found it hard to get through the Austen sections. I can understand that writing this book must've been a very personal project for Cohen, given that she goes into detail about her father's passing away and her subsequent grief, but as a narrative it just didn't work for me. Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gizem-in-Wonderland

    “Austen’s novels offer strange friendship: in their company you may feel more yourself, look out at the world with clear sight.” I am internally flawed in a way that I fall for anything and everything that has the word “Austen” in it. My brain stops working and I am a zombie walking slowly levitating towards the book with one thing in mind: I must read this! I am saying this because it’s apparent I cannot judge a book that has Jane Austen on its title unbiased as I absolutely love everything abou “Austen’s novels offer strange friendship: in their company you may feel more yourself, look out at the world with clear sight.” I am internally flawed in a way that I fall for anything and everything that has the word “Austen” in it. My brain stops working and I am a zombie walking slowly levitating towards the book with one thing in mind: I must read this! I am saying this because it’s apparent I cannot judge a book that has Jane Austen on its title unbiased as I absolutely love everything about the author and her novels. Austen years is the memoir of Rachel Cohen, telling us about her personal experiences of reading Austen. She talks about the period in the her life when she only read Austen novels for a couple of years. Cohen talks about the pain and mourning of losing someone you love and how she found condolence in Austen books during one of the most difficult and challenging periods of her life. Austen Years goes back and forth between Cohen’s and Austen’s life. Each section is dedicated to one of the five core novels of Austen and she associates the novels with her life with a heart-warming account. I especially loved the analogy Cohen created; Austen’s universe with each novel as a planet: “If I picture a map of the five Austen novels in my mind, the first four are like the orbiting bodies of a planetary system, widening outward in concentric circles, from the tight binary star of the two sisters in Sense and Sensibility, to the family of Pride and Prejudice, to the wider ellipse of Mansfield Park, all the way out to the perfectible community resonant in Emma. Persuasion is something like an asteroid that moves, irregularly, repeatedly, among the different spheres.” Overall a good reading experience for Austen fans and her novels. (I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Flynn

    Of course I have a soft spot for people named Rachel who are obsessed with Jane Austen, so I cannot be completely objective. This book was a pleasure to read, even though at times it felt a bit scattered. I liked the insights into the novels, and also some of the author's observations about mourning and dealing with the death of a parent. I wished that the biographical discussion had been more rigorously fact-checked (some anecdotes of dubious authenticity are soberly reported as facts, and no on Of course I have a soft spot for people named Rachel who are obsessed with Jane Austen, so I cannot be completely objective. This book was a pleasure to read, even though at times it felt a bit scattered. I liked the insights into the novels, and also some of the author's observations about mourning and dealing with the death of a parent. I wished that the biographical discussion had been more rigorously fact-checked (some anecdotes of dubious authenticity are soberly reported as facts, and no one seems to have realized that "Edward Austen" was in fact Edward Knight, his changing his name the condition of his adoption by wealthy relatives) but it does not, after all, claim to be a biography. I had never before come across the idea, proposed in the discussion of Emma, that Miss Bates would have been about Mr. Knightley's age, and they conceivably could have had a thing, way back. It's a good example of how Emma can yield new surprises however many times you read it -- it's true that Austen never actually says how old Miss Bates is! Here's where she is introduced: "Mrs. Bates, the widow of a former vicar of Highbury, was a very old lady, almost past every thing but tea and quadrille. She lived with her single daughter in a very small way, and was considered with all the regard and respect which a harmless old lady, under such untoward circumstances, can excite. Her daughter enjoyed a most uncommon degree of popularity for a woman neither young, handsome, rich, nor married. Miss Bates stood in the very worst predicament in the world for having much of the public favour; and she had no intellectual superiority to make atonement to herself, or frighten those who might hate her into outward respect. She had never boasted either beauty or cleverness. Her youth had passed without distinction, and her middle of life was devoted to the care of a failing mother, and the endeavour to make a small income go as far as possible. And yet she was a happy woman, and a woman whom no one named without good-will. It was her own universal good-will and contented temper which worked such wonders. She loved every body, was interested in every body's happiness, quicksighted to every body's merits; thought herself a most fortunate creature, and surrounded with blessings in such an excellent mother, and so many good neighbours and friends, and a home that wanted for nothing. The simplicity and cheerfulness of her nature, her contented and grateful spirit, were a recommendation to every body, and a mine of felicity to herself. She was a great talker upon little matters, which exactly suited Mr. Woodhouse, full of trivial communications and harmless gossip." Mrs. Bates is "a very old lady," which to me in 2020 means perhaps 90, but to Austen in 1815 could have meant 60. Miss Bates is in "her middle years" -- again, to me this does not mean what Austen probably meant by it. Mr. Knightley is 37 or 38, as we are told. So, yes, it could have happened. And she is absolutely right that some connection between Mr. K and Miss B. seems to exist -- he's always sending apples and looking out for her -- but I had always put it down to merely his sense of noblesse oblige. So there we are.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Natalie (CuriousReader)

    In Austen Years, Rachel Cohen takes us through her years reading and rereading five of Jane Austen’s novels over periods of grief and transformation. What follows is a mixture of biographical paragraphs on Jane Austen’s life, exploration of the author’s life in particular chronicling the passing of her father and becoming a mother of two children, as well as literary criticism of Jane Austen’s writings. From the start I found myself pulled into the way Cohen thinks about her experience with read In Austen Years, Rachel Cohen takes us through her years reading and rereading five of Jane Austen’s novels over periods of grief and transformation. What follows is a mixture of biographical paragraphs on Jane Austen’s life, exploration of the author’s life in particular chronicling the passing of her father and becoming a mother of two children, as well as literary criticism of Jane Austen’s writings. From the start I found myself pulled into the way Cohen thinks about her experience with reading Austen and how it has transformed as her life circumstances, and she in turn, have changed. The reader coming to a book with their own emotional baggage, previous literary history, preconceptions, mood, state or point in a journey changes the reading we do. This much is probably not revelatory, yet I found the actual journey of following a reader examining the way this had happened in a concrete sense rather thought-inspiring. So much so that I wrote an entire post about my own journey into Austen (though I have only read them through once). Cohen writes about seeing different things in Austen’s literary worlds depending on where in her life she has been; how Austen writes children, how she writes about grief, war and politics more broadly, home and house, even plays – particularly connecting this theme discussion to Mansfield Park in which the cast spend several pages preparing for a performance and in which the play itself has plot and character importance. With every point, she explores her status as a reader changing and noting on what she is seeing in Austen’s books, she takes us on various bypasses, not necessarily leading to a main street but rather allowing us to experience her mind wandering and taking organic steps in a journey. Full Review on Curious Reader!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    One of those books that you know you'll read again, alongside the novels by Jane Austen that Cohen close-reads. The bibliography and endnotes alone could keep me happy and busy for years. Stellar writing, raw and elegant, and so many insights about Jane Austen that it will take me until the paperback edition appears to think things through.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    As an author myself, I rarely, if ever, give a bad review. So I’ll only place stars if this site forces me to do so. I know how hard it is to create solid work—and I never want to do harm. I am, like Cohen, a deep reader of Austen, and I lost my adult son when he was 47 years old in 2017. So I bought this book in the hope that Cohen’s grief would infuse the intellect that drives the book. I also attended a theoretical q&a (Questions seemed pre-prepared to make sure she had some.) reading and tal As an author myself, I rarely, if ever, give a bad review. So I’ll only place stars if this site forces me to do so. I know how hard it is to create solid work—and I never want to do harm. I am, like Cohen, a deep reader of Austen, and I lost my adult son when he was 47 years old in 2017. So I bought this book in the hope that Cohen’s grief would infuse the intellect that drives the book. I also attended a theoretical q&a (Questions seemed pre-prepared to make sure she had some.) reading and talk by Cohen via Zoom at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore via the University of Chicago. I was struck while reading and even more so during the two-person plus Cohen-panel and a moderator, who did quite little, if anything, in these ways: What makes the potential for this book so great is that Cohen chose to address her grief on the dying and death of her father by rereading Jane Austen. She is a solid scholar, for sure. But what the book lacks is the power of grief and what the book exhibits is a decided unwillingness to share the emotion that clearly spurred the making of the book. I ended up decidedly bemused. If you want to learn about Austen’s time in history, colonialism, slavery and the fact that Austen lived while Napoleon attacked Britain, even some guesses about her thinking on that subject, go ahead: You’ll find much to chew on. But if you expect to be moved and if you hope this author will dare to leap, hold your breath.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carin

    Just after Rachel had her first baby, her beloved father's illness returned and he died. She found throughout the period in which she had two children and lost her father, she could read nothing else but Jane Austen. She returned over and over and over again to her five novels (not Northanger Abbey which is a farce of a Gothic novel.) At different times, different novels spoke to her. She could pick them up anywhere and just read a few pages and put them down. Reading them was more of a form of Just after Rachel had her first baby, her beloved father's illness returned and he died. She found throughout the period in which she had two children and lost her father, she could read nothing else but Jane Austen. She returned over and over and over again to her five novels (not Northanger Abbey which is a farce of a Gothic novel.) At different times, different novels spoke to her. She could pick them up anywhere and just read a few pages and put them down. Reading them was more of a form of meditating, rather than novel reading. She wasn't reading for content or critique, but for comfort and reassurance. Much like H is for Hawk, this novel is about how grief renders one utterly shocked and unable to cope in their usual ways--therefore glomming on to a talisman that seems to make some sense of the new world. At times the book made me sad. Rachel's father sounds delightful. I have a professor father myself, but we never go on walks (unless you count golf in which case on vacations we often go on walks.) It's a fascinating idea, for one who hasn't reread a book in years, to consider rereading and rereading and rereading. What new insights would one get on the 20th rereading? The 50th? Would I one day grow to like, or at least appreciate, Mansfield Park? Unlike other readers I've always liked Emma--would I perhaps grow frustrated with her? Anne is so passive and so sad, but has been my favorite heroine--would she stay that way? And the silly Marianne, would I perhaps appreciate her emotionality more? Alas, I don't see me finding out, but I do, in my own way, revisit Austen's novels over and over, through pastiches, retellings, biographies, hagiographies, and other variations on this theme. This likely will be a lifelong pastime. And it it calming to read this quiet meditation on Austen, on her life and her heroines, during a difficult time in someone else's life, and how Austen provided solace and comfort. Each of us will deal with grief in our own time and our own way, and I hope I can do it with as much grace and thoughtfulness as Ms. Cohen.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    This is part memoir, part literary criticism, and part history. And I loved it. The author spent years reading only Austen's five novels (she doesn't count Northanger Abbey, arguing that Austen wasn't really done with it), years of some turmoil in her personal life as she experienced her father's death and started a family herself. My favorite elements of the book are the literary criticism and history. I know Austen's novels well; Cohen assumes this of her readers, and the book is probably less This is part memoir, part literary criticism, and part history. And I loved it. The author spent years reading only Austen's five novels (she doesn't count Northanger Abbey, arguing that Austen wasn't really done with it), years of some turmoil in her personal life as she experienced her father's death and started a family herself. My favorite elements of the book are the literary criticism and history. I know Austen's novels well; Cohen assumes this of her readers, and the book is probably less enjoyable for those more unfamiliar. Though each Austen novel is given space, Persuasion is incorporated throughout. Cohen's perceptions and connections regarding grief, friendship, reading, writing, forgetting, and imagining in the novels--along with many detailed observations of novel-specific events--delighted me. Cohen also considers history and how world events might have influenced Austen's writing. On my next reread, there will be lots to think about. The book is driven by impressions; the lack of narrative didn't bother me. I read with a pencil at hand, savoring the gorgeous writing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julie Olver

    I find anything Austen-related to be irresistible, so I was excited about this book. It felt timely, because I'm going through a phase where I am constantly re-reading Austen in between other books. But this was scattered and redundant and just didn't work for me.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I’m strangely drawn to a weird niche category of books where the author takes up a particular—and often unusual—hobby to deal with grief after the loss of a loved one. Helen Macdonald’s “H is For Hawk” falls into this category, as does Katie Arnold’s more recent book about ultrarunning, “Running Home” and So Litt Woon Long’s memoir, “The Way Through the Woods,” in which she describes being drawn into the world of mushroom hunting after the sudden death of her husband. I also really enjoy books t I’m strangely drawn to a weird niche category of books where the author takes up a particular—and often unusual—hobby to deal with grief after the loss of a loved one. Helen Macdonald’s “H is For Hawk” falls into this category, as does Katie Arnold’s more recent book about ultrarunning, “Running Home” and So Litt Woon Long’s memoir, “The Way Through the Woods,” in which she describes being drawn into the world of mushroom hunting after the sudden death of her husband. I also really enjoy books that combine memoir with literary and biographical exploration of a particular author, like Rebecca Mead’s “My Life in Middlemarch,” which I absolutely loved. Rachel Cohen’s “Austen Years” combines the two, as she deals with the loss of her father by dedicating herself to years of reading only Jane Austen books. I should say from the start that if you don’t like Austen, you probably won’t like “Austen Years,” as it includes quite a bit of textual analysis and assumes a familiarity—and indeed a great appreciation—of at least five of Austen’s six completed books. (Early in the book, the author recounts a joke about the philosopher Gilbert Ryle: “Someone had asked Ryle if he ever read literature in addition to philosophy. And Ryle replied, ‘Of course, I read all six every year.’”) And, much like grief itself, this book is not particularly straightforward or linear—it digresses and winds back on itself in a ruminative, wistful way. But if you are an Austen fan and if, moreover, you are comfortable allowing a book to unfold at a contemplative pace, “Austen Years” will be a quiet treat. Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    In the past, as I had worked on writing my first book, and on different series of essays, if anyone happened to ask me what I was reading, I was relieved. To say “I’m reading James Baldwin,” or “I’m reading Russian poets,” was to give the truthful answer one never does to the polite question “How are you?” I had meant, among other things, “I’m paying attention.” Now I sat on the bus that went across the river, with a finger holding a place in Persuasion, and heard again in my mind the sound of t In the past, as I had worked on writing my first book, and on different series of essays, if anyone happened to ask me what I was reading, I was relieved. To say “I’m reading James Baldwin,” or “I’m reading Russian poets,” was to give the truthful answer one never does to the polite question “How are you?” I had meant, among other things, “I’m paying attention.” Now I sat on the bus that went across the river, with a finger holding a place in Persuasion, and heard again in my mind the sound of the coming baby’s heartbeat. On the pages, there was asperity, definiteness, endings known, bearable, even triumphant. Still, if you had told me that years were coming when I would hardly pick up another serious writer with any real concentration, that the doings of a few English families would come to define almost the entire territory of my reading imagination, and that I would reach a point of such familiarity that I would simply let Austen’s books fall open and read a sentence or two as people in other times and places might use an almanac to soothe and predict, I would have been appalled. “Comfort reading,” one intellectual said briskly when I, some springs ago, after a little hesitation, once again confessed that Austen was all I read. It is another kind of comfort, not, I think, the kind my friend meant, that the people who live in Austen’s rooms know that much of the time will is all one has to work with, that there is often not going to be guidance, that one will wait a long time for understanding to come and will have acted, over and over and probably not for the best, before it arrives. These are repeated lessons of being a parent and of watching a parent sicken and die. But in that conversation at home, something else happened. We came to the end of what we could say, and I stood and faced him. Something moved. It might have been that he reached to grab my arm, but I think it was just a look, like a mask across his face, that stayed for a prolonged moment. An expression I could not place, in the vicinity of anger, passion, and doubt. It had to do with the way he was leaving me, and us, and the world. It was as bleak and impassioned as I ever saw his face. It seemed that he had a feeling to which he could not put words, and which might have meant that, as he made his reckoning with the universe, the final abandonment was grim. Looking back at myself in earlier rooms, I think I would say that, in the evenings, studying the shards of meaning that remained after similar days, I was not primarily reading Austen either to accept, or to hide from, a new life, but because it gave me room for thought. Austen’s rooms, like a stage set, are actually mostly empty—there are basic pieces of furniture, books, a plant or two. She does not describe clothes or carriages, but how her characters think about their things. Her characters are worried about money and time. In her rooms, as in ours, people live under great pressure. Time bears down upon us. The world is raging, and we have each of us but a tiny sphere of activity. We are subject to constant interruption, and we must nevertheless exert ourselves to make sense and to become coherent. One lives with one eye on the laundry and one eye on the reckoning. We kept “honor,” took out “serve,” we chose “as long as we both shall live.” When we came to the remarks Matthias would make about the state of marriage we were to enter into, Matthias thought Hegel might be grounding. The two philosophers said, a little wryly, that according to Hegel, once married, we would become one substance. I said fuck that. In their mourning, perhaps they also felt, I think they must have, that the ways of life in which they had grown up, with every expectation that these ways would see them through, had, quite suddenly, in the space of two decades, become almost completely unrelated to the world that had come to be. What should they do with all of these habits and ways of navigating, all this remembered life that seemed now like it hardly touched the world moving on. Over time, even the memories of this winter walking got blended into the round. The hardest memory, the one that refused obstinately to become a part of the circle, that if I thought of it would always catch me and tear me away, was the one of my last walk there with my father, in the autumn, when he told me to teach, which I thought meant to stop doing the writing in which I was getting lost. One thing I think now is that my disquiet on that walk was from a misunderstanding that went even deeper. As we went, up and down the slopes, over the graveled part and the paved, I was worried in a molecular way that I’d never experienced before: there was a strange faltering in the pace of walking next to my father. I knew I was angry with myself for not quite being able to love a walk together, one I could not say to myself might be among the last we would have. I didn’t know that my body was registering a truth—we had already lost walking next to each other. On the last day, shortly before the morphine began to take effect, I asked my father whether he had any messages for people. He said that he had tried to write to some of his closest friends but had found it impossible. I said I would tell people that he had always hated goodbyes. And I added, tentatively, that I thought he would say to them that he would be satisfied to feel—and I tried to get the words he would use, and I knew to say—that life was going on. He made a sign that indicated that this was a right expression. Then I said to my father that people would be acting in his honor and thinking of his memory. He shook his head. He said: “It all going on is miracle enough.”

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kate Richey

    Easily the most boring book I’ve read in a decade. And I LOVE Jane Austen. I don’t know how the author manages to present personal anecdotes - that would otherwise be exciting chapters of a life in a memoir - in writing that is generic, plodding, self-important, and vacuous...but it was managed expertly. Navel-gazing award of the century. This book felt like running into a passing acquaintance at the grocery store, who talks to you like you’re their closest friend, and won’t give you an out in t Easily the most boring book I’ve read in a decade. And I LOVE Jane Austen. I don’t know how the author manages to present personal anecdotes - that would otherwise be exciting chapters of a life in a memoir - in writing that is generic, plodding, self-important, and vacuous...but it was managed expertly. Navel-gazing award of the century. This book felt like running into a passing acquaintance at the grocery store, who talks to you like you’re their closest friend, and won’t give you an out in the conversation to exit politely. Just awful. Of all the books on Goodreads that I’ve been surprised had higher ratings than they deserved - this one is by far the most shocking. Did the author just invite everyone they knew to give 5 stars? Or pay people to rate it? Have mercy on yourself and go read another book. HURRY.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Pgchuis

    I received a copy of this memoir from the publisher via NetGalley. This isn't for me sadly, despite the fact that I am very fond of Jane Austen's novels. The opening section lacked any sense of structure and wandered to and fro in time and the novels and I felt lost. After that it settled down to focus on the novels one by one (or so I thought, but there is still a tendency to meander). I was not aware of Rachel Cohen before requesting this book and, while she writes movingly of her grief for her I received a copy of this memoir from the publisher via NetGalley. This isn't for me sadly, despite the fact that I am very fond of Jane Austen's novels. The opening section lacked any sense of structure and wandered to and fro in time and the novels and I felt lost. After that it settled down to focus on the novels one by one (or so I thought, but there is still a tendency to meander). I was not aware of Rachel Cohen before requesting this book and, while she writes movingly of her grief for her father, I am not interested enough in her to persist for that reason. I'm not learning anything I didn't already know about Austen or the novels either. The division of the heroines into 'E's' (Emma and Elizabeth) and the 'anns' (Fanny and Anne) was the end for me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I'm somewhere between 2 and 3 stars. While I enjoyed some of Cohen's insights into life and into Austen's works, I found the book lacking in something that's not quite tangible. I think this is because it flows here and flows there, often with no seeming focus. This could be charming, offering moments of illumination, but after a while, it got annoying. Her father's work was very interesting, and I felt that every time I had a grasp on it, she'd flip to something else. I also had trouble with so I'm somewhere between 2 and 3 stars. While I enjoyed some of Cohen's insights into life and into Austen's works, I found the book lacking in something that's not quite tangible. I think this is because it flows here and flows there, often with no seeming focus. This could be charming, offering moments of illumination, but after a while, it got annoying. Her father's work was very interesting, and I felt that every time I had a grasp on it, she'd flip to something else. I also had trouble with some of her interpretations of the Austen works, and I found a couple times she just got something wrong. I am a dedicated Austen reader too, so this might be nitpicking on my part. I just wish Cohen had taken a little more time to organize the book. Her writing promises so much more.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Oh this is hard to review! First and most importantly, the reader must have some familiarity with the novels of Jane Austen (or at least have seen some of the movies). Second, the reader can't been too committed to Austen or the reader will no doubt fund fault with what Cohen has done. So if you're an Austen dilettante like me, this will be a satisfying exploration of Austen's life and novels and how they helped Cohen cope with her grief after the death of her father and her happiness about her Oh this is hard to review! First and most importantly, the reader must have some familiarity with the novels of Jane Austen (or at least have seen some of the movies). Second, the reader can't been too committed to Austen or the reader will no doubt fund fault with what Cohen has done. So if you're an Austen dilettante like me, this will be a satisfying exploration of Austen's life and novels and how they helped Cohen cope with her grief after the death of her father and her happiness about her children. Cohen chose to read only Austen for five years (wow) and she winds the novels etc into her own experiences. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. I enjoyed this one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lissa

    During a time of the author’s life when she had two children and lost her father, she found herself reading only Jane Austen. She found the experience comforting and revelatory as the books she first read when she was younger took on greater and more sophisticated meaning. She intersperses her analysis of the novels with stories from her own life at that time. I loved reading about her experience re-reading these books and the themes she applied to her own life. The memoir part of the book felt During a time of the author’s life when she had two children and lost her father, she found herself reading only Jane Austen. She found the experience comforting and revelatory as the books she first read when she was younger took on greater and more sophisticated meaning. She intersperses her analysis of the novels with stories from her own life at that time. I loved reading about her experience re-reading these books and the themes she applied to her own life. The memoir part of the book felt meandering and repetitive but she did a great job tying in instances from the books. I received a digital review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Annette Jordan

    Austen Years by Rachel Cohen is a thoughtful and touching memoir about a specific and emotionally turbulent period in the authors life. Within a short space of time she lost her beloved father and had two children, and amongst all the disorder and upheaval she found herself turning to a familiar companion, choosing only to read the works of Austen. In this book she takes the reader on that journey with her, and though the meandering style of her narration may not be to everyone's taste, I enjoye Austen Years by Rachel Cohen is a thoughtful and touching memoir about a specific and emotionally turbulent period in the authors life. Within a short space of time she lost her beloved father and had two children, and amongst all the disorder and upheaval she found herself turning to a familiar companion, choosing only to read the works of Austen. In this book she takes the reader on that journey with her, and though the meandering style of her narration may not be to everyone's taste, I enjoyed it. As she analyses each novel and the emotional impact and support that she found within their pages, I found myself thinking about my responses to the same works and how familiarity brings comfort. I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.

  19. 5 out of 5

    wonderwomand

    Excellent thoughtful memoir. I received a free digital copy from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. I wish that I had more time to read the pages before it was archived. The author wrote a memoir about her life at a time when she was reading the Jane Austen novels. She talks about her joys and tragedies during these Austen reading days. It is a memoir that I would want to read again. I also had to expand the text every time I wanted to turn the page.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Writing of parenthood, loss, family, complicated love, time....whatever crosses her field of vision--Cohen uses Jane Austen's novels as set of conversational partners in one of the best memoirs I've read in recent memory. The genre tilts towards extreme states; Cohen, like Austen, writes towards the ordinary, which doesn't remain ordinary. She's made me want to re-visit the novels, which I love deeply and have written about in Love & Happiness. Writing of parenthood, loss, family, complicated love, time....whatever crosses her field of vision--Cohen uses Jane Austen's novels as set of conversational partners in one of the best memoirs I've read in recent memory. The genre tilts towards extreme states; Cohen, like Austen, writes towards the ordinary, which doesn't remain ordinary. She's made me want to re-visit the novels, which I love deeply and have written about in Love & Happiness.

  21. 5 out of 5

    christina

    I liked the premise and very much enjoyed the author's layered insights into Jane Austen but found the memoir aspects—profound grief over her father's death, psychoanalysis, her open marriage, etc—somewhat repetitive. I still recommend the read and would've given 4 stars if not for the audio's narrator who sounded, not in a good way, exactly like Jenna Mulroney on 30 Rock.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Noël

    3.5. The writing is gorgeous but wanders a great deal. These are essays knitted into a book mostly about the loss of the author's father built around a structure of Austen's novels. I found myself wishing it were tighter, leaner though.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Yanira

    My god, what a stunning book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    The parts about Austen are interesting and engaging. The memoir portions fall flat and get pretentious and tedious after the first 1/4 of the book. Recommended for dedicated Austen fans.

  25. 5 out of 5

    MaryAnn Baker

    I've found, through decades of reading, one has to care about the subject of a memoir. And the author must be focused. Neither applies in this case.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Very thoughtful perspective. It was an enjoyable read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Audiobook. An interesting mash up of genres from memoir to biography to literary criticism. Enjoyed the information but a little rambling and repetitive.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Carina

  29. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Grothaus

  30. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Lawler

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.